Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…, Ephesians 3:20 NKJV.
I don’t remember where or when or even what I heard or read that gave me something of the following idea from this portion of Scripture, but it has stuck with me for a long time.
The idea is that, as we consider and think and meditate about the work and ways of God, we will never get past Him.
In our physical world, as we look in any direction, we can only see so far – to “the horizon”. Now as we move toward it, the horizon, as it were, moves also, so that it is always the same distance away.
In the spiritual world, as we think of our God, for the sake of illustration, let us imagine a horizon with a wall, a wall beyond which we can’t see, beyond which we have no knowledge. In the verse above, that wall is “He is able to do”. We know a tiny sliver of His power, His ability, His purpose. We think we know so much, with our Bible colleges and seminaries and degrees. We have libraries filled with books, computers filled with terabytes of information, about doctrine and theology. We’ve analyzed this world down to its atomic structure and looked out at the stars till sometimes we imagine that we’ve learned all we can. I read an article just the other day that astronomers have “named” their second millionth star.
Now, it’s true that astronomers recognize that they haven’t reached the end of the heavens. This same article put forth the idea that there aren’t just millions of stars, there are millions of galaxies of stars. The numbers reach into infinity.
When we talk of God, we, too, talk of infinity. God is omnipresent: He is everywhere. There is nowhere hidden from Him. This is not the same as He is everything, as the pantheist believes, or in everything, as the panentheist believes. There just is nowhere else as far as He is concerned; He’s already there.
He is omniscient: all-knowing. There is nothing hidden from Him. No secrets. Nothing unknown. There’s nothing for Him to learn.
He is omnipotent: all-powerful, though here, in our foolish pride, we have built a wall. In His dealings with us, we imagine that He has limitations beyond which He can’t go without our consent: we have to be “willing”.
It’s sad that a pagan king had a higher view of God than even many church people, many professing Christians. In Daniel 4:35, Nebuchadnezzar said,
“All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;
He does according to His will in the army of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ ”
That’s the first wall: God’s ability to do whatever He wishes.
He is able to do…exceedingly.
That is the second “horizon”.
When God created this world, He didn’t create a barren rock like Mars, or a hot, inhospitable planet, like Mercury or a cold, distant planet like Pluto. He created a planet ideally suited for the soon-to-be inhabitants of said planet: Adam and Eve and their descendants. Even in its accursed state because of man’s sin, it still shows some of the beauty God made it with. We can’t imagine what it must have been like in its pristine and unspoiled condition.
This leads us to our third point: abundantly.
The newly formed earth had no scant provision, no lack of anything needful or useful. In fact, the two words “exceedingly” and “abundantly” go together: what God has done, He did exceedingly abundantly. He provided for His world far beyond any understanding we could have of it. And He told our first parent, Adam, that he could eat freely from every tree in the Garden except one, Genesis 2:16, 17. That one restriction was simply to remind Adam that he was still a subject of God and responsible to God for what he did. But other than that, there was a whole world available for his use.
In the Garden, after Adam had been given abundant provision, and had named all the animals, each with its mate, he stood there all alone. Up until now, God had said of each part of His work, “It is good.” “It is good.” “It is good.” When He was done with creation, He said, “It is very good.”
But there was something of which he said,
“It is not good.”
Man was not meant to be alone. It is here that marriage was instituted. And it was meant to be between one man and one woman – for life. Divorce – and other views of marriage – came in later because of the foolishness and sinfulness of humanity.
So God put Adam to sleep and performed surgery on him, taking out a rib. From that rib, he made a woman, someone to be a helper, comparable to him, Genesis 2:18.
But sin entered. Romans 5:12, and that which had been perfect became imperfect. In fact, just now, as I was opening another page on my computer so I could use an online concordance, there was an article on that page about the “problem” of “perfectionism”. We seem to prefer being imperfect. Indeed, men love darkness rather than light, John 3:19. In fact, imperfect men crucified the only perfect Man.
But, here again, God has gone beyond….
When Adam sinned, God could have just let him go. Could have washed His hands of the mess that had just been made. As I write this, though, I feel completely inadequate. There’s a lot of discussion about the origin of sin, the why’s and the wherefores and why didn’t God prevent it, and on and on. I admit, though I do have some thoughts about it, I don’t know that I have answers. It’s enough for me that God does.
The truth of the matter is that sin [has] entered, and that is the quintessential fact of human life: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.
Just as an aside, I looked up “quintessential” just to make sure that I had spelled it right; it’s not a word that’s used very often. It refers to the most typical or representative example of a quality or class. So why didn’t I just say “typical” or “representative”? Sorry, that’s just me. I’m interested in geeky stuff like that. It didn’t mean quite what I thought it meant, when I wrote it, which was something like “most basic.” I was thinking that the entrance of sin into this world is one of the basic facts of our human existence. It has certainly colored and corrupted every part of it. Anyway…. “Quintessential” refers to a fifth element according to medieval thought, the first four being air, fire, earth and water. But there was no explanation as to what medieval scholars thought that element was.
I don’t know what they thought either, but on that same page, there was a segment on the meaning of the “quint” in the word. It means, “fifth.” Hence, the name “quintuplets” for the 5 babies born at one time for the 37 different ladies who have borne them at one time or another, according to Wikipedia. Ouch. In thinking about all this, and trying to figure out the next sentence for this post, it occurred to me that it’s a lead-in to another thought: there is far more to this world than just the material; there is a spiritual element, a “fifth” element, if you will, as well. At the very least, men recognize what they call a “Higher Power.”
Scripture tells us about this Higher Power: the God of heaven and earth, Ezra 5:11; Acts 17:24.
And it tells us what He has done about sin. He could have just left Adam and Eve and their descendants to the tragic results of their sin. While it is true that He did kick them out of the Garden and pronounce judgment against them and their descendants, He did also promise a Redeemer. He went beyond….
The third horizon: above all….
Through Isaiah, God told Israel, and us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts,” Isaiah 55:8, 9.
I don’t think we really have any idea about what God is doing in this world. We have enough trouble sometimes keeping track of what we are doing. “Where did I put that…?” “Now what did I come in here for…?”
As far as the reaches of the universe are above us, so are the ways and doings of God. I think we should just let Him do it, and quit worrying so much.
And as for redemption…. He could have just saved His people – us – and forgiven us so that when we die we go to heaven and not the other place. But Scripture tells us that that not only has He saved His people, He adopted them and made them part of His family. We are His sons and daughters.
There are two ways to come into a family: birth or adoption. Both of them are or will be true of the believer. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit, we are born spiritually into His family, John 3:5. But, again, God could have just birthed us into His family, made us spiritually alive and when we die, as some science fiction shows have it, we could just “ascend” to some higher plane of existence, leaving this physical body behind.
However, “going beyond,” God has promised that even these frail, aging physical bodies will one day be far different. 1 Corinthians 15:53 tells us that this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. Death will ultimately be conquered and there will not be a single physically dead person anywhere. For the believer, no more glasses or contacts, no hearing aids, no canes or crutches, no arthritis, no infirmities, no disease, no more sin. That last would be enough for me; the rest is just a lot of icing on the cake, and ice cream.
There is, however, something called the second death, Revelation 20:14. This will be the fate of those who die without the Lord Jesus. This will be a final and eternal separation of sinners, body and soul, from the presence and blessing of God. There will be no heaven for them, no purgatory, no second chance – just an eternity in the lake of fire, Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15.
But family implies certain resemblances and traits, not just the same parents or ancestors. Here 2 Corinthians 5:21 comes into play, For He has made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. As John put it, We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2. So God’s ultimate purpose isn’t just to save us from our sins, but to make us like His only-begotten Son. This does not mean that we will become some sort of little gods or anything like that, like some kind of “deity”. We will still be human, just raised to a level far beyond anything this world knows or has ever known – except for the Lord Jesus. We will be sinless and perfect. Much different than we are today.
The fourth horizon: we can ask. I think it’s safe to say that our prayer lives for the most part are pretty mundane. We probably don’t ask for many mountains to be moved, Matthew 17:20; 21:21. We’ve lost a lot compared to saints of the past, men like Hudson Taylor or George Mueller. These men who showed what God will do if we would just get out of the way. George Mueller once said that he had so much to do, that he would never get through it all without three hours a day in prayer. Three hours. And Hudson Taylor told of an incident where he was in great need of something which would take three months to reach him in China. But he prayed about it. A few days later, he received a package with the very thing he so badly needed.
Isaiah 65 tells of a time which is still pretty much in the future. However, sometimes God likes to give us a glimpse of that future. In v. 24, He said, “Before they call, I will answer.” In this case, God started the answer to Hudson Taylor’s prayer three months before he called.
These men knew how to ask. And receive.
The fifth horizon: or think.
One idea of heaven is that we’ll sit on clouds playing harps. Probably not the way it will be. We really have nothing to compare heaven with. Some religions simply extrapolate from what they want in this life, and, to them, that will be heaven. The Apostle Paul said that he knew a man who had been caught up into heaven, and that there weren’t words to describe that experience, even if he could, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4.
In closing, we read Nebuchadnezzar’s comment above about the God of heaven. He held a high view of Him, no doubt, Daniel 4:34, 35. Nowhere, however, do we read that God ever became his God. In fact, after recounting all that happened to him: being driven out from among men, being made to live like an animal for seven years, and then being restored to his former life and power; he still had his god. He still called Daniel by the pagan name – “Belteshazzar” – that he had given Daniel at the beginning of the captivity, Daniel 4:8, 9.
He never really learned. Anything.
Let’s not be like him.
It seems to me as I read over all this, that there are some places where I’ve been kind of flippant. If I’ve “gone beyond,” then I’m sorry. God gave us a sense of humor and mine sometimes gets away from me. But this matter of life and death and beyond are deadly serious. The Lord Jesus showed us that when He came to die for us. He certainly “went beyond….” And He’s not done.
By His grace, let’s worship and serve and trust the God Who Goes Beyond.